Former Shanxi official sentenced to death for taking 1 billion yuan in bribes
Zhang Zhongsheng was in charge of granting approval for new coal projects in the former boomtown of Lüliang
A former Chinese official was sentenced to death yesterday morning for taking bribes amounting to more than 1 billion yuan in pocketed cash and assets.
Zhang Zhongsheng (张中生) was the vice mayor of a poor city called Lüliang in Shanxi province, a province known most of all for two things: its coal and its corruption.
For 16 years, from 1997 to 2013, Zhang, now 65, worked at the highest levels of power in the local government, in charge of granting official approval and licenses to new coal projects, mergers, and acquisition. This posting ended up being quite a lucrative one for Zhang, who was found to have illegally taken in 1.04 billion ($159 million) as a government official.
A former boomtown gone bust — Lüliang is among the poorest regions in China, a distinction that was even true during the early 2000s when Zhang was first starting to amass his colossal fortune in ill-gotten gains.
According to a report from China’s official Xinhua news agency, the Intermediate People’s Court of Linfen city, which sentenced Zhang to death without reprieve, called the former cadre contemptuous of the law and “extremely greedy,” explaining that it had handed down the most extreme sentence because of the “huge losses to the country and its people” caused by Zhang’s crimes.
Each year, China executes more people than the rest of the world combined. While this is not a common punishment for corrupt officials, it is not without precedent during Xi Jinping’s reign, which has been highlighted by a high-profile austerity crackdown.
Back in 2016, Chinese judicial authorities announced that the death penalty can be pursued in any case where someone embezzles funds or accepts bribes worth 3 million yuan ($476,000) or more — a threshold that Zhang certainly meets. Prior to that, there was no specific reference point, only the vague wording of “an extremely huge amount of money.”
Last year, Zhao Liping, a former police chief in Inner Mongolia, was executed for the gruesome murder of his reported lover and for having accepted bribes totaling nearly 24 million yuan ($3.45 million).
Before Zhang can also be placed in front of the firing squad, China’s Supreme People’s Court must first give its approval.